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Weekly Harvest Newsletter

Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - November 29, 2006

Weekly sustainable agriculture news and resources gleaned from the Internet by NCAT staff for the ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service Web site. The Weekly Harvest Newsletter is also available online.

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News & Resources
* NAIS Draft User Guide Released for Comment
* Wild Wheat Gene Boosts Nutrients
* Report Examines Cellulosic Biofuel Potential
* Farm-to-Institution Programs Focus of New Research Project
* Web Site Expands Pest Management Information Offerings

Funding Opportunities
* Methyl Bromide Transitions Grant Program
* Tennessee Clean Energy Technology Grant Program

Coming Events
* Farming for the Future
* Sustainable Food System Conference
* Midwest Value Added Conference

News & Resources

NAIS Draft User Guide Released for Comment
As part of the ongoing NAIS development process, USDA APHIS has completed a Draft User Guide for NAIS and is requesting comments on the document. The Draft User Guide is the most current plan for the NAIS and replaces all previously published program documents. The NAIS Draft User Guide provides valuable information on how producers can participate in the voluntary NAIS if they so choose, how participation would benefit them, and how the system is being implemented. Comments on the Guide are being accepted through January 22, 2007. The text of the draft is available online in PDF.

Wild Wheat Gene Boosts Nutrients
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Haifa in Israel have cloned a gene from wild wheat that increases the protein, zinc and iron content in the grain. The cloned gene, designated GPC-B1, accelerates grain maturity and increases grain protein and micronutrient content by 10 to 15 percent in the wheat varieties studied so far. Research team leader Professor Jorge Dubcovsky was surprised to find that all cultivated pasta and bread wheat varieties analyzed so far have a nonfunctional copy of GPC-B1, suggesting that this gene was lost during the domestication of wheat. Dubcovsky leads a consortium of 20 public wheat-breeding programs known as the Wheat Coordinated Agricultural Project, which is rapidly introducing GPC-B1 and other valuable genes into U.S. wheat varieties using a rapid-breeding technique called marker assisted selection. The resulting varieties are not genetically modified organisms, which will likely speed their commercial adoption.

Report Examines Cellulosic Biofuel Potential
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has released a report titled "Achieving Sustainable Production of Agricultural Biomass for Biorefinery Feedstock," which addresses the question "Can American farmers feed the growing biofuel industry?" The report details the potential of cellulosic biomass as an energy resource and the promise of no-till cropping for greater residue collection. It also proposes guidelines and incentives to encourage farmers to produce, harvest and deliver sufficient feedstock to the growing biorefinery and biofuels industry in an economically and environmentally sustainable way. The complete report is available online.

Farm-to-Institution Programs Focus of New Research Project
A new two-year study at the University of California will examine the feasibility of farm-to-institution programs for both buyers and farmers. According to this piece in the Central Valley Business Times, the study is the first large-scale research project of its kind. The program will have several components, including surveys of students across the country and institutional food buyers in California; an evaluation of distribution methods that could be employed to provide more fresh, locally grown food into schools, hospitals, and other institutions; and an assessment of the profitability for farms and ways farmers could tap into the farm-to-institution market. "The institutional foods market has been largely untapped by small- and mid-sized farmers," says project director Patricia Allen of the UCSC Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. "If institutional contracts incorporate sustainability criteria, a huge market could be transformed with an incentive-based approach, rather than through regulation."

Web Site Expands Pest Management Information Offerings
Hundreds of new pests have been added to the Pests in Homes, Gardens, Landscapes, and Turf section of the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program Web site. For the first time, users can find pest management information specific to a host plant. New content was drawn from the UC Guide to Solving Garden and Landscape Problems, formerly only available in CD-ROM format. More than 120 plant species are covered by the online information. Emphasis is on least-toxic management methods that protect health and the environment. The information allows users to make quick, informed management decisions while decreasing pesticide use. The database is continually updated, and additional plants and pests will be added over the next year.

> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

Methyl Bromide Transitions Grant Program
CSREES announces the availability of grant funds in excess of $3 million and requests applications for the Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program - Methyl Bromide Transitions. The goal of the Methyl Bromide Transitions (MBT) program is to support the discovery and implementation of practical IPM alternatives for managing (a) soil borne pathogens and weeds; (b) post harvest pests; or (c) storage and packing material sanitation affected by the phase-out of methyl bromide. Projects supported by the MBT competitive funding program will focus on short- to intermediate-term approaches that lead to sustainable production technologies and systems. Applications may be submitted by colleges and universities.
Proposals are due February 21, 2007.

Tennessee Clean Energy Technology Grant Program
The Tennessee Energy Division is now offering a business grant program for the purchase and installation of renewable and other clean energy technology projects in the state. The program will be available to any size business that is currently operating in the state. The purpose of the program is to supplant the use of fossil fuels by using approved renewable and other clean energy technologies including solar electric (PV), wind, solar thermal (water heating), hydrogen fuel cells and hybrid solar lighting.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Farming for the Future
February 1-3, 2007
State College, Pennsylvania

The annual Farming for the Future conference is PASA's signature event and their main vehicle for community building. Widely regarded as the best of its kind in the East, this diverse event brings together an audience of over 1,400 farmers, processors, consumers, students, environmentalists, and business and community leaders annually. Typical conference workshops focus on such practical topics as poultry production, cheese making, riparian buffers, organic certification and raw milk marketing.

Sustainable Food System Conference
February 2-3, 2007
Kansas City, Missouri

Sponsors Kansas City Food Circle, Green Foundation of Kansas City, ReEnergizeKC, Green Network, Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, and J-14 Enterprises will hold a conference on "Coming Home to Eat -- Creating a Sustainable Regional Food System -- A Call for Leadership." A central goal of the conference will be to initiate action to deal with alternative tools and models in building organizational structures in the development of a regionally based food system that is considerably self-reliant and free from corporate control.

Midwest Value Added Conference
January 26-27, 2007
Red Wing, Minnesota

"Ringing in the Profits" is the theme for this 9th annual conference. River Country Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council hosts this event for producers from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, including a trade show and educational sessions.

> More Events

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